When Martin St. Louis entered the National Hockey League 20 years ago, he was an undrafted, undersized player many doubted would ever stick in the League, let alone make an impact.
Now he's recognized as one of the best to ever play the game of hockey.
And, on Tuesday, he became a Hockey Hall of Famer.
St. Louis was named one of six new inductees to be enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame this fall as part of the Class of 2018.
St. Louis, who played 17 years in the NHL, 13 of them with the Tampa Bay Lightning, and collected 1,033 points, one of only six undrafted NHL players at the time of his retirement to reach the 1,000-point milestone, became the second former Lightning player in as many years to be selected for the Hockey Hall of Fame, joining Dave Andreychuk, who was inducted as part of the Class of 2017 after a nine-year wait.
St. Louis is a first-ballot inductee.
"It's an honor," St. Louis said on a conference call. "Congrats to all the inductees. Well deserved. To join the great players that are in now is unbelievable."
St. Louis said he was at his lake house in Quebec with his family when he got the call informing him of the honor.
"At the time when the phone rang, my dad, my wife were all in the kitchen," he said. "It got silent real quick. It was actually a really cool moment."
Look through the Lightning record book and St. Louis' name will be found at or near the top of every offensive statistic.
St. Louis owns the Lightning all-time record for points (953), assists (588), game-winning goals (64), shorthanded goals (28), overtime scoring (21 points) and power-play points (300).
He skated in a team-record 499 consecutive games, allying fears his size would make him more susceptible to injury.
He led the Lightning for goals in a season three times, for assists in a season eight times - including seven-straight seasons from 2006-07 through 2012-13 - and for points in a season four times.
His six NHL All-Star Game appearances are the most in Lightning history, as are the five times he was named to the NHL Postseason All-Star Team.
His trophy case is overflowing with NHL awards. He won the Hart Trophy (NHL MVP as voted by the PHWA) and the Lester B. Pearson Award (NHL MVP as voted by the Players' Association, now known as the Ted Lindsay Award) in 2003-04. He owns two Art Ross Trophies, given to the NHL point leader at the end of the regular season, and three Lady Byng Memorial Trophies, presented to the player exhibiting the best sportsmanship while playing at a high standard. He owns a Gold Medal as a member of Canada's 2014 Olympic championship team.
He's second all-time on the Bolts for goals (365), games played (972) and points per game (0.98).
And he scored arguably the most important goal in Tampa Bay Lightning history. 33 seconds into double overtime of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final at Calgary, St. Louis pounced on a rebound off Tim Taylor's shot from the point and lifted the puck over the right shoulder of Flames' goalie Miikka Kiprusoff to give Tampa Bay a 3-2 victory and send the series back to Tampa tied 3-all.
Video: 2004: Martin St. Louis extends Cup Final to Game 7
Two days later at the then-St. Pete Times Forum, the Lightning won their first, and to date only, Stanley Cup.
"Obviously, everything he's done on the ice is incredible, but Marty was probably the hardest working guy, dedicated to the game, great teammate, great leader and obviously huge part in us winning the Stanley Cup," said former teammate Vincent Lecavalier, who, along with St. Louis, is one of only two Lightning players to have his number retired. "He's done so much for me personally as a player and as a friend. He's just done so much for the game of hockey."
Standing just 5-foot-8, St. Louis wasn't given much of a chance to stick in the NHL following a standout collegiate career at the University of Vermont. But watching similarly smallish players like Theo Fleury and Doug Gilmour thrive in the League provided inspiration for St. Louis. And hearing the negative comments from doubters lit a fire inside him that has yet to be extinguished.
"I knew it was possible," he said. "It was hard, but it was possible. I really fed off that. People tried to discourage me along the way. But that's just life…I definitely used that as a motivation to try to prove people wrong."
Added Andreychuk, a teammate of St. Louis' for four seasons with the Lightning from 2001 to 2006, including that Stanley Cup-winning squad in 2004: "He is definitely a guy that not only our Lightning players but there are kids across the world that look at Marty St. Louis and they're inspired by what he's done -- an undrafted player, smaller than average, the heart of a lion -- and what he's accomplished. Marty understands that. He gets that. I think he carries that around with him. He's a mentor for all these kids that never got drafted or are undersized that you can put yourself in the Hockey Hall of Fame."
Andreychuk, who was repeatedly passed over for the Hockey Hall of Fame until his selection into the Class of 2017, said he watched this year's nomination announcement with the same anticipation he waited all those years for his name to be called knowing that St. Louis would be eligible for the first time.
"It's a different year for me but at the same time, I know when the date is," Andreychuk said. "I knew Marty was up for it and I watched it just like all the fans. I'm super excited he's a first-year ballot. He deserves it. He was a great player and certainly deserving of this honor."
St. Louis' former teammates on his Hockey Hall of Fame selection:
"Marty was one of the greatest competitors that I've played with. He had an incredible passion for the game and was inspiring to everyone around him. To think that he came into the league undrafted, but then had the career that he did, is just a testament to his work ethic and character. Welcome to the fraternity, Marty. Your family should be very proud of you."
"This is such a well-deserved honor for Marty. He gives every undrafted player hope that if you work hard, you can have success. When kids today dream of playing in the NHL, they should model themselves after Marty St. Louis. He is everything you could ever want in a hockey player. I'm glad I had the opportunity to play alongside him."
"As a hockey player, and a fan, there are not many people more deserving of this great honor than Marty St. Louis. Marty truly loved the game and brought that same incredible passion every time he stepped on the ice. It was not only a pleasure to play with him but to win with him."
"Marty St. Louis was the heart and soul of our Stanley Cup Championship team. His work ethic, his skill and determination, and the example he set every day on the ice made us all believe anything was possible. The way he played the game made us believe we could all do incredible things individually and as a team because we watched him do it night after night. How fitting he be a 'first ballot' Hall of Famer. He is so deserving of this incredible honor, and I am thrilled for Marty, Heather, their sons, Marty's Dad, and his entire family! Together Forever!"
What was your reaction when you heard about Marty's Hockey Hall of Fame nod:
"I was really happy for him. I wasn't surprised from everything he's done for hockey, the Lightning, the Rangers and what he's done for the NHL. It's always nice to see a good friend and a player you played with be honored in such a way. It's the biggest individual honor you can get. It shows how much you've done for the sport."